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B. Consent insufficient: Most courts hold that subject matter jurisdiction, unlike jurisdiction over the parties, may not be conferred by consent of the litigants.

C. Kinds of federal subject matter jurisdiction: In the federal courts, there are two basic kinds of controversies over which the federal judiciary has subject matter jurisdiction:

1. Suits between citizens of different states (so-called diversity jurisdiction);

2. Suits involving a “federal question”—this will be defined more fully in the discussion of Federal Question Jurisdiction, infra, p. 131.

3. Other cases: Certain other kinds of cases specified in the Constitution, Art. III, §2, also fall under the federal judicial power. These are:

a. Cases involving ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;

b. Cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;

c. Cases in which the United States is a party.

D. Amount in controversy: In a federal suit based on diversity (category 1 above), an amount in excess of $75,000 must be in dispute in the suit. This requirement is known as the jurisdictional amount or the amount in controversy.

Note: This chapter will be concerned with the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts. The subject matter jurisdiction of the state courts is generally controlled by state statute; each state is free to allocate the judicial power reserved to it by the 10th Amendment as it wishes among its own state courts. Most states have two or three different kinds of trial courts: a small claims or justice of the peace court, a court of general jurisdiction, a probate court, etc. Of ten, minimum and maximum limits are placed on the amounts in controversy in these courts. A state’s court of general jurisdiction may even hear claims based on federal law, unless Congress has specified otherwise as to a particular type of claim. The statutes of the particular state must be consulted to determine the allocation of subject matter among its courts; this allocation will not be discussed further here.


A. Burden: The party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court must affirmatively show that the case is within the competency of the court. Wr., 27.

Example: A plaintiff seeking to invoke diversity jurisdiction (i.e. jurisdiction based on the fact that the parties are citizens of different states) must in the pleading allege the relevant facts about the citizenship of the parties.

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